Homeless veterans line up during the 2012 Arizona StandDown where they received services from healthcare to legal advise. Photo Christopher DiVirgilio | PN ONline
Phoenix homeless veterans rise from the ashes on the way to a hopeful future
Veteran homelessness has been a hot-topic issue in the U.S. and continues to plague many major metropolitan cities across the nation.
On any given night, there are approximately 300,000 veterans living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S. Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless, according to statistics published by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
While state and federal agencies work tirelessly to combat the matter, many programs currently in place are typically understaffed or underfunded and have no lasting effect on the veteran homeless population.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton discusses efforts to bring chronic veteran homelessness to an end by 2014. Photo Christopher Di Virgilio | PN Online.
But for one U.S. city, chronic veteran homelessness may soon be a thing of the past. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., joined Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton during the Phoenix Veterans Day celebration to announce the city’s goal of ending chronic veteran homelessness.
Mayor Stanton addressed veterans and parade-goers and proclaimed November as “Bring them Home” month, and announced the city’s goal to bring chronic veteran homelessness to an end as early as February 2014.
Phoenix teamed up with Project H3, a community collaboration coordinated by the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, partner organizations, countless volunteers and community leaders to create Project H3Vets. Together they will be placing the remaining 56 homeless veterans into temporary shelters, with plans for permanent housing.
Project H3 Vets works in conjunction with government leaders, supporting nonprofits and faith community partners. The initiative is aligned nationally with the 100,000 Homes Campaign and the National Homeless Veterans Outreach Campaign.
“When we started out, more than 250 homeless veterans had been living on the streets of Phoenix for an average of 8 years,” says Stanton. “We finally decided that this would be our highest priority in ending chronic veteran homelessness and started working as a team.”
With help of dozens of volunteers, Phoenix conducted a census of sorts, fanning out across the city generally populated by homeless individuals.
The volunteers gather information on each person, to include the amount of time on the streets, their military status and any possible health concerns each person may be experiencing.
“That person you see on the street has probably been there for a long period of time,” says Stanton. “They’ve been living on the streets while we often pass them by, barely noticing that individual.”
For many of the homeless population, surviving on the street has been a way of life for more than a year. Some contributing factors to their situation arise from job loss or a healthcare crisis in which they have expenses they didn’t foresee and are suddenly in a situation where they lose their home.
“The project we’re working on with H3 … and we want to focus on ending homelessness among everyone … but the immediate project, and the one we’ve had great success on is dealing with the chronic homeless veteran population,” says Stanton.
“It’s an incredible and sad irony, that often, a condition that was caused as a result of military service is one of the main causes of their joblessness or even homelessness. It’s not acceptable to me and should not be acceptable to anyone, and we’ve got to continue to do more to make sure we fight that.”